It’s funny how the experience of time can change depending on circumstance. (See? What did I tell you about making flower crowns. It’s a slippery slope, my friends).
Thinking back to very recent days when I had infinite “freedom” at my disposal, I was plagued with unreasonable tensions, trying to pull all of the disparate pieces of my life together like, now. And since we’ve come under certain restrictions, after some rolling waves of personal crisis, I’ve suddenly become quite resolved at having no clear or definite answers. I felt like I finally have some time to breathe (which I understand is a strange thing to say in the wake of a pandemic respiratory illness).
But hear me out. I’ve found this to be an unusual time replete with paradox. And this sudden halting of the external world has meant there is only one place to really go.. the internal one. With an apparent change in the winds of fate, I decided to dabble in a new rendition of a very old meditation and let my day-dreaming take the reins, while I consciously took the back seat.
And with so much time to drift and reflect, things around me have started to look very different. I never thought I would be playing make believe to soothe my adult woes, but here we are.. transforming light fixtures into crystal balls and liquor cabinets into caravans.
The day that the quarantine in France was announced was a particularly stressful one. I live with my boyfriend in a one-bedroom apartment, a straight-shot south of Paris, located on the third floor of a building, facing an avenue that I’ll refer to as a sort of collateral artery outside la périphérique. While the location is significantly quieter than inner city Paris, it can still be quite busy. The apartment is also east-facing, meaning it gets spectacular morning light and is something of a heat-trapping terrarium come afternoon. Hailing from a place that doesn’t see comfortable t-shirt weather until the end of May, I can tell you that I almost died in last summer’s 39°-peaking canicule, but was comfortably at home during the winter months, which felt conspicuously like Vancouver. I never realized how acclimatized I was to having polar bear blood.
So back to that announcement. Frenchie was visibly distressed at the idea of being confined to our little apartment and in retrospect, I can definitely understand his sentiment of the time more clearly. He was visibly tense. I was content to stay put, thinking “what’s a couple of weeks?”. But going on week 7 now, I’m glad we made a move when we did. After a few phone calls, we hastily packed up and migrated west to a family home, taking up residence with his cousin. I had been to the house before for a family dinner but quickly realized that there were an entire two floors of the house that I had never seen. And oh my god, it even has an art room.
I came into isolation, prepared with two paintings, a stack of philosophy books, and a briefcase of art supplies (you know, for all that free time). I planned to study French and immerse myself in reading. I have done neither of those things. I didn’t plan on going crazy, but apparently that happened. I flew out of the gates; enthusiastically jumping into painting, playing a little piano, even trying my hand at day-drinking. But what really started to draw my focus in was experimenting with short video production. For an entire week I was positively energized, whizzing around the house like a hummingbird hopped up on flower nectar. And then, as all things that go up must come down, I crashed. Whoopsies.
Now, I would be lying if I said that confinement has been a complete walk in the park. It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster at time, but it’s also become obvious that a lot of my own frustrations have been self-made, if not at the very least, self-perpetuated. Getting out of my own way has proven to be the best solution at every seemingly sharp corner I’ve come in contact with. Yup. This is the time to go inward and learn to make friends with whatever’s there.
So after the first proverbial nose-dive into the dirt, I decided that I needed to pause and take look around. Maybe I wasn’t seeing things so clearly. I decided to take stock of where I was and what I had available to me. Ok. What was coming up for me was this theme of resource and values. I stumbled across an interpretation a few weeks back that really helped me get through this block in my thinking, that resource is not only the physical material that we have, but more importantly what we possess internally. So yes, your sense of humour is a valuable resource. Your ability to see the brighter side of things is worth its weight in gold. And the more I’ve been pondering this, the more I feel like there’s nothing to try and covet. I have all that I need to create something fantastic. This is when I noted a shift and inspiration found me. Things that had been absolutely mundane only yesterday were now revealing themselves to be rather fanciful.
I remembered seeing a globe fixture for an exterior light that was perched on the top shelf of the art room and reached to pick up, laughing as I had sudden visions of an illuminated crystal ball. I knew I could find a way to light this up. I put it aside for a couple of days until one evening I opened the old, wooden armoire that housed all of the spirits in the living room and suddenly noticed the incredible patterned fabric lining. How had I not noticed this before? I inspected the old wood, taking in the details of the cabinet’s doors and I had my big idea.
I scoped around the house for a cardboard box that I could use to the bitter end. I ended up finding one made of stiffer board that I have been continually repurposing and gradually excising pieces from project by project. It has since reincarnated as a robot’s head, rough ocean waters, ominous thunderheads, a hitch-hiker’s sign, and a microwave (more on these things later). I flipped the box bottom-up, grabbed my golden scissors, and after a short struggle managed to stab a hole through the middle of the closure that would become the feed for my light. I found a really strange desk lamp that somehow fit at just the right height, with the switch trailing just out from under the box for an inconspicuous illumination.
I whooped in revelation as the chenille and wool blankets draped across the back of the living couch quickly revealed themselves to be the perfect embellishments for that rich, sultry look I was hoping to create. Add in a sporadically blinking string of lights that might just be on their way to electrical burn-out and we had our finishing touch. The final piece was readying myself with a copious smudge of black eye liner, red lips, and some unnecessary contouring. Discovering the red poppy scarf and golden drape of tassled necklaces (courtesty of Frenchie’s fabulous aunt) were just too perfect not to include and I just could not stop laughing.
The purpose behind this short project was to continue becoming acquainted with new favourite past time of editing video in Premiere, play with concept development and a short story arc, creative set design using whatever I could find in the house, and of course, to laugh and have fun. I thought making this might lighten the mood, if only temporarily.
As for Madame Rouge and the unleashing of my alter ego? What can I say. I’ve honestly never felt so at home in my own skin as a I have dressed up as a rhum-drinking fortune teller. I might just need to revisit her in the very near future.